BOSTON – Claude Julien has a score to settle – with himself.
Five years ago, he coached the Montreal Canadiens to a Game 7 win after they’d trailed the Boston Bruins 3-1. Now he’s on the verge of a similar comeback as coach of the Bruins. “I’d love to be able to return that favour,” Julien said Wednesday.
He gets his chance Thursday night when the Bruins hope their revitalized game and their raucous fans will overwhelm and unnerve the Carolina Hurricanes, who failed to wrap up the series on their own ice in a 4-2 loss Tuesday night.
“If you said at the start of the series that we had one chance to win one game to go on, we’d have said, ‘Let’s take it,”‘ Hurricanes captain Rod Brind’Amour said before his team flew to Boston. “What’s done is done.
“This team has been resilient.”
Carolina overcame a 3-2 deficit in the first round and beat New Jersey, scoring twice in the last 80 seconds of Game 7 to take the series.
The Bruins won the opener of the Eastern Conference semifinal 4-1. Then the Hurricanes outscored Boston 10-3 in taking the next three games.
Faced with a clear choice, play better or get eliminated, the Bruins rallied with a 4-0 win in Game 5 and a 2-0 lead in the first 5:04 of Game 6.
“This series has (had) more momentum swings during games than any series I’ve probably been involved with,” Boston goalie Tim Thomas said. “So it’s crucial to try to keep that momentum.”
The Bruins entered the playoffs as the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference and played like it in a four-game sweep of the Montreal Canadiens. Now they have a chance to reach the conference finals for the first time since 1992.
The Hurricanes were seeded sixth but finished the season strong and then eliminated the Devils, winning Game 7 on the road. They have a shot at their second Stanley Cup championship in four years.
“Yes, we’re home, but they’re a good team on the road as well,” Boston’s Patrice Bergeron said. “So we have to feed off the crowd.”
The Hurricanes have to give goalie Cam Ward, the 2006 Stanley Cup MVP, more help.
“We forced our goaltender to go post-to-post three times on 15 even-strength shots” Tuesday, Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “You have to give your guy that chance to be the difference, especially when you’ve got a goaltender like Cam that’s capable of doing that.”
The Hurricanes played well for much of Game 6 and outshot the Bruins 22-10 in the last two periods.
They cut the lead to 2-1 on Matt Cullen’s second-period goal, but Boston’s Marc Savard scored six minutes later. Julien said Savard, who left in the third period as a precaution after injuring his knee, is expected to play Thursday.
Scoring first may bring momentum but it doesn’t guarantee victory. The Bruins gave up the first goal in the last two games against Montreal. The team that has scored first in the Carolina series has lost two of the six games.
Still, “you’ve got to show the other team that you’re in control,” Julien said. “That was part of our game plan (Tuesday). Don’t wait and see what they’re going to throw at you. Go out there and show them what you’re going to throw at them.”
Last year the eighth-seeded Bruins came back from another 3-1 deficit and tied top-seeded Montreal before losing Game 7. But those Bruins were tired from a late-season surge they needed just to make the playoffs.
Then they went 4-0 in the regular season against Carolina but such dominance has disappeared in the playoffs.
The Bruins have lost all 20 series in which they trailed 3-1. But they never made it to a seventh game in the first 19 and won only one game in 18 of them.
Now they just have to win one game to advance.
So forget about history.
“I don’t think any of us (gives) any weight to that,” said Steve Montador, who scored Boston’s second goal Tuesday. “We really don’t have any more to control than what we do today and how we prepare for tomorrow.”
The Hurricanes’ win over New Jersey was their third straight in a Game 7. The Bruins haven’t played one this year.
“Yeah, we might feel a little bit more comfortable in Game 7, but … nothing can prepare you for that,” Carolina’s Sergei Samsonov said. “The more you think about it, you just have to treat it like one game. Not a Game 7. One game.”